India on Thursday declared as “invalid” the standalone paper visas given by the Chinese embassy and consulates for Indians from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, and issued a travel advisory asking those going to China to ensure their visas are pasted on their passports.
“Such paper visas stapled to the passport are not considered valid for travel out of the country,” the external affairs ministry said here in an “important travel advisory on Chinese visas”.
The ministry was alluding to the recent practice of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi and its consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata to issue visas on a separate sheet of paper “stapled” to the passport, rather than “pasted” as is the usual practice, to residents of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh.
Weeks ago, New Delhi had slammed this practice of issuing separate visas “to certain categories of Indian nationals on the basis of their domicile, ethnicity and/or place of issue of the passport” that was seen as a not-so-subtle message by Beijing to contest India’s sovereignty over these states.
India took up the issue with China at the highest levels, but it has apparently not stopped the practice, provoking New Delhi to issue the travel advisory rendering separate visas as invalid.
“All Indian citizens intending to travel to China are advised that before making any travel arrangements they should first ascertain from the Chinese embassy or consulate, whether the visa being issued to them will be affixed to the passport or will be in the nature of a stapled paper visa, so that they are not inconvenienced or put to any financial loss later on this count,” the ministry said.
The disclosure about the Chinese practice of issuing separate visas has come amid strains in bilateral ties due to a host of issues, including China’s repeated claims on Arunachal Pradesh, the Dalai Lama’s visit to that state and Beijing’s stepped-up activities in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
China has of late repeatedly laid its claims on Arunachal Pradesh and opposed the visits of Indian leaders to India’s northeastern state on grounds that it is part of what Beijing calls “south Tibet.”
Beijing has also opposed Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh and voiced “strong dissatisfaction” with New Delhi for allowing the trip.
By issuing separate visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, a practice that came to notice only a few months ago, New Delhi suspects Beijing is bolstering claims of its all-weather ally, Pakistan, over the Indian state.